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NEW YORK CITY-Known for mom-and-pop stores, Harlem is seeing an influx of national retailers both large and small. The increased interest in Upper Manhattan is also affecting rents, pushing them into triple digits in some areas.

“Traditionally, Harlem has mostly been mom-and-pop stores, but over the past six or seven years more national retailers and chains have been gravitating to Harlem,” Scott Auster, broker with Ripco Real Estate Corp., tells GlobeSt.com.

The retail resurgence has, to this point, been concentrated on 125 Street, but times are changing, he says. “That has been where most of the retail has been located and where the best mass transit access is,” Auster explains. “Now we are seeing national retailers moving into other parts of Harlem.”

One change to the retail landscape has been the presence of big-box stores. Harlem Center at Lenox and 125th Street includes a Marshalls, Staples and CVS. Also, Harlem USA features a Magic Johnson movie theater, and Old Navy and a Modell’s. “We also just signed Chuck E. Cheese to its first Harlem location at Harlem USA,” Auster says. “It opened right after Christmas.”

With Harlem entering the retail spotlight, most areas are seeing a jump in rents, which, according to Auster, vary across the neighborhood. “There are strong rents on 125th Street, in the triple digits. Some areas are seeing $200 per sf,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “Once you move off 125th Street, rents range from $30 per sf up to $50 or $60 per sf for more desirable retail.

“There has been a real dramatic increase on 125th Street because Harlem has a bit of a cache to it,” he adds. “Retailers are starting to discover it.”

That discovery is being fueled, in part, by increased residential development. “As more people move [to Harlem] they will need retail, especially what the chain stores provide,” Auster says. One example of this is the Langston, a 180-unit mixed-use luxury condo project at 68 Bradhurst between West 145th ad West 146th streets. The Gotham Organization and the Richman Group recently signed a 15-year deal with the New York Sports Club to open a 16,200-sf facility at the Langston. The transaction gives NYSC its second Harlem location.In addition, Starbucks has inked a 10-year deal for 1,500 sf at the Langston. The store is slated to open in the spring, with NYSC eyeing a summer opening. Auster repped the Gotham Organization and the Richmond Group in both deals. John Epifanio handled the deal for NYSC.

“Traditionally, tenants only considered 125th Street when looking at the Harlem trade area, but if you look at the tenants that have signed leases at the Langston, along with those that have already opened in the surrounding developments, all of them have a presence on 125th Street already and are looking to grow in Harlem,” Auster says. “Pathmark, Duane Reade, Chase Bank, Starbucks, New York Sports Club and Bank of America are all either open or under construction on 145 Street, and all of them have an existing location on 125th Street. This illustrates not only that these types of tenants have developed a successful business in Harlem, but that the significant amount of residential development that is taking place in Central Harlem is justifying further expansion.”

As for Harlem’s future, Auster does not see the retail movement slowing. “Ultimately we will see more full-price retailers like you have below 96th Street take more of an interest in Upper Manhattan,” Auster explains. “It has traditionally been more of a discounted retail market.”

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